Common Diseases in TogoAlthough it is a small country wedged between Ghana and Benin, the most common diseases in Togo can have a major impact on many.

The World Health Organization reported that in 2014, a little over five percent of the country’s GDP expenses went toward health. The organization also listed a 2015 data finding that males and females between 15 and 60 had slightly different death rates: 309 out of 1,000 people for men versus 266 out of 1,000 people for women.

HealthGrove further put this into perspective, highlighting that out of 100,00 people, 1,266 die yearly in Togo, and listed the country’s life expectancy at 60 years.

Of the common diseases in Togo, those that can be transferred (communicable diseases) are some of the most prevalent.

Diarrhea, lower respiratory and other common infectious diseases
These accounted for a little less than 20 percent of deaths overall and slightly over 30 percent of communicable diseases specifically. Compared to 1990, in 2013 lower respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases and meningitis all posed much lower threats of mortality.

HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis
These diseases led to between 14 and 15 percent of deaths overall and over 22 percent of communicable disease-related deaths. While tuberculosis’s threat of death has decreased since 1990, HIV/AIDS has increased substantially—by 1,038 percent.

Neglected tropical diseases and malaria
These made up 12 percent of deaths in general and almost 19 percent of deaths from communicable diseases.
Malaria, rabies and schistosomiasis death rates all fell from 1990.

Neonatal disorders
These accounted for 10 to 11 percent of deaths total and over 16 percent of mortality rates due to communicable disease.

Nutritional deficiencies
These led to about four percent of deaths in general and between 6 to 7 percent of deaths for communicable diseases.

In addition, diseases that cannot be transferred—non-communicable diseases—are among some of the common diseases in Togo.

Cardiovascular diseases
As the most common of the non-communicable diseases, these accounted for a little less than 11 percent of deaths overall and over 35 percent of NCD-related deaths. Stroke, ischemic heart disease and other cardiovascular/circulatory disease rates all fell from 1990.

Diabetes, urogenital, blood and endocrine diseases
In total, these only made up slightly more than five percent of deaths, but in terms of NCDs specifically, these increased to over 17 percent. While hemoglobinopathies and hemolytic anemias, as well as chronic kidney disease, both fell since 1990 (the latter only by one percent), diabetes mellitus actually increased by about 13 percent.

Cancer led to over four percent of deaths in general and over 14 percent of NCD-related deaths. Liver, cervical and stomach cancers all fell by over 30 percent from 1990.

There are still a number of improvements that can be made. For 2015, Togo qualified as a low-income food-deficit country and only slightly less than 12 percent of its citizens used improved sanitation facilities that year.

However, about 63 percent of the population in the same year utilized improved water drinking sources, 85 percent of one-year old children had measles immunizations and the mortality rate of children below five years old fell from about 108 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2004 to 78.4 in 2015.

The WHO released a report in February of this year detailing a meningococcal disease outbreak, but listed methods undertaken to address the matter, including requests for vaccinations, support for management and surveillance and the training of health personnel.

Applying these same tactics to the communicable diseases listed may be beneficial. Other methods, like increasing knowledge on how to reduce the spread of disease, as well as improving access to clean water and other nutritional sources could also be key.

Furthermore, for non-communicable diseases—though some may be genetic—tactics like increased exercise and diet changes may yield a reduction in their prevalence.

The nation must still make specific improvements to ensure that its population is healthy. But judging by the fluctuations of common diseases in Togo, there is great hope for a decrease in their pervasiveness.

Maleeha Syed

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Togo
Togo is a small country in West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea that has struggled with human rights issues for years. In February 2005 their leader of 38 years, Eyadema Gnassingbé, died suddenly and his son, Faure Gnassingbé, was appointed.

His appointment drew widespread criticism, so Gnassingbé left the power and held elections which he won in April of that same year. Gnassingbé’s opponents declared the election fraudulent and hundreds of people were killed during this time of political unrest.

Today, Gnassingbé continues to serve as the president of Togo after being reelected in 2010 and 2015, but the new and fragile democracy still struggles with human rights violations. Below is an examination of five major facets to human rights in Togo, what improvements have been made and what still needs to be done in the future.

1. Legality and acknowledgement of the importance of protecting human rights on a national level has improved.

One crucial step that Togo recently took is its decision to become involved in international human rights conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture. In an of itself, this participation is primarily symbolic; however, it is still a vital step toward a better future for the citizens of Togo.

The Constitution of Togo sets the stage for a country that prioritizes human rights. Articles 15 through 18 state that nobody shall be arbitrarily detained, those who are in prison will be treated humanely and everyone maintains a presumption of innocence before a fair trial.

Article 21 condemns torture, Articles 25 and 26 declare freedom of speech and of the press and Articles 36 and 37 protect working conditions and the fair treatment of children. Reading through The Constitution of Togo, it is clear that at least on paper, human rights in Togo are respected.

2. Criminality is not handled lawfully, those on trial do not maintain a presumption of innocence and some wrongful arrests are made.

Although the constitution states otherwise, arbitrary arrests do happen and there is little to protect a citizen’s presumption of innocence. Despite every defendant’s right to obtain legal advice, most cannot afford it and must represent themselves. The practice of pretrial detention also renders the presumption of innocence futile as these detention periods can be lengthy and harsh.

Amnesty International reported that after the 2015 lawful protest demonstrations in Mango, “Five men remained in detention without trial… There were concerns that they may be held solely because they were the organizers of the protest.”

Detainees awaiting trial account for about 65 percent of the prison population and are not separated from convicted prisoners. Togo does not provide any alternatives to incarceration; therefore, those prosecuted for less serious or nonviolent crimes are detained in the same prisons as violent offenders.

3. Prison conditions are unacceptable.

The dangerous and inhumane prison conditions in Togo are alarming and still require significant reform. In some prisons, prisoners only receive one meal per day and die of hunger. The 2015 report from Amnesty International stated that, “Torture and other ill-treatment were used to extract confessions from detainees, and prisoners were denied timely medical treatment.”

Togo prisons hold more than double their capacity, which leads to increased risk of disease and death.

The 2016 Human Rights Report states that 27 prisoners died that year due to inadequate conditions. The overcrowding crisis in Togo prisons that is responsible for appalling human rights violations, is a direct result of pretrial detention and a broken justice system.

4. Laws against political corruption and penalties against criminal corruption are not properly implemented.

According to Togo’s 2016 Human Rights Report, The National Commission for the Fight against Corruption and Economic Sabotage lacked specific anticorruption legal mandates and was inactive. Other entities like the Government Accounting Office and Finances Inspectorate had limited resources and reported very few results.

Many reforms are still needed into the electoral process, such as instituting a presidential term limit, but the National Assembly rejected the bill that would institute that and other reforms.

5. Child labor and human trafficking have been addressed, but with only moderate improvement.

In November 2015, the National Assembly passed a revised penal code that increased penalties for child labor and human trafficking violations. However, these increases penalties have not been successful in ending child labor, human trafficking or torture.

According to The United States Department Of Labor, Togo “has not devoted sufficient resources to combat child labor, and enforcement of laws related to child labor remains weak. In addition, Togo’s social programs to combat the worst forms of child labor do not match the scope of the problem and rely largely on NGOs and international organizations for implementation.”

Overall, Togo has made positive steps in its acknowledgment of the importance of protecting human rights; however, the country still has a long way to go in implementing protection and improving the lives of its citizens. The justice system and police force currently do not line up with what the Constitution of Togo declares, leading to continuing hardship and violations of human rights.

Since 2005, Togo has come a long way, but there is still a need to raise awareness and advocate for better prison conditions, corruption accountability and increased resources put toward combating child labor and human trafficking.

Katie Hemingway

Photo: Flickr

Togo Refugees
There are ten facts about Togo refugees that are important to know. It is important to establish a timeline of events so that we can understand the Togo refugee crisis fully.

The first massive group of Togolese citizens to escape to refuge in neighboring countries were in 1993. Togo refugees relocated to Ghana and Benin because of the violent unrest in Togo. The violence that ensued during the fight for the new constitution, and its subsequent abolishment in 1993, led to enormous physical insecurities in Togo.

Here are ten facts about the conditions for Togo refugees since the flight for life in 1993:

  1. The fight between the government and opposition parties led to the displacement of over 15,000 people to neighboring countries in 1993. This number often included families that were separated, and children that were accompanied by strangers because their parents were either killed or lost during the scare to find more secure locations.
  2. The Volta region of Ghana hosts the most refugees from Togo. This region lies west of Togo’s capital Lomé. Citizens of Aflao, a district in the Volta region of Ghana, have welcomed the Togo refugees with an open embrace.
  3. The Volta region has been a major area of dispute between Togo and Ghana since British Togoland became a part of Ghana. It was a part of the split of British and French Togoland, after the defeat of Germany in 1918. After a U.N.-led referendum in 1956, British Togoland joined Ghana.
  4. The citizens of Togo who fled to Eastern Ghana are a part of the Ewe people of West Africa.
  5. Violent and indiscriminate killings after the 1998 elections caused more people to flee from Togo. Families were once again forced to run to safety in neighboring countries because of violent unrests and intimidation from supporters of both the winning and losing parties of the election.
  6. The military handed over power to Gnassingbe Eyadema’s son Faure Gnassingbe after Eyadema dies in 2005.
  7. There have been a series of violent protests and widespread killings, due to opposition to political corruption. This situation has worsened security concerns in Togo, as its citizens live in constant fear.
  8. Victims of the indiscriminate killings resulting from violent unrest are also foreign citizens accused of supporting the opposition or ruling party.
  9. Violent assaults and killings are committed by both supporters of the ruling party in efforts to suppress opposition and supporters of the opposition party in retribution to attacks from the ruling militia.
  10. In Ghana, the government made provisions by 2015 to integrate 2300 Togolese refugees into Ghanaian society. Under the Seeds for Solutions Project, efforts by the Ghanaian governments will be funded by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). This provides social and economic aid to refugees for work-training and micro-finance loans to start businesses.

Togo refugees are hopeful that security conditions in Togo will improve so that they can return.

Ebuka Okoye

Photo: Flickr

 Hunger in Togo
Togo, officially the Togolese Republic, is a country in West Africa with a population of 7.8 million people. While the climate and landscape of the country lend itself to agriculture, periods of the socio-political and economic crisis has led to high levels of food insecurity and poor nutrition. Here are nine facts about hunger in Togo.

  1. The poverty rate in Togo is 58 percent, and the acute malnutrition rate is five percent. While the poverty rate is still high, it is improving. An improving economy and increased aid have helped reduce the percent of people in Togo living in poverty from 61.7 percent in 2006.
  2. Hunger in Togo has an even greater effect on children. Around 29.7 percent of children under five are chronically malnourished, and 30 percent are stunted, meaning they have a low height for their age due to malnutrition.
  3. Malnutrition worsens in certain regions of the country, due to low resources and an increase in poverty. In the Savannah region, which is the poorest in Togo, chronic malnourishment in children reaches 43 percent.
  4. Natural disasters have had a significant impact on hunger in Togo. A series of floods has hurt food security and increased the number of internally displaced people, who are especially vulnerable to malnutrition.
  5. Agriculture makes up a significant part of Togo’s economy. However, seed shortages and poor weather have resulted in low crops, which contribute to hunger in the country.
  6. Development aid to Togo stopped in 1992 because of government issues and human rights abuses. However, improvements in the country have resulted in donors returning, which brings promise for reducing hunger in Togo.
  7. The U.N.’s World Food Programme runs food-for-work programs in Togo in order to decrease hunger while improving the community. The programs have people help with reforestation and the rebuilding of rural roads in exchange for food.
  8. Many families in Togo will reduce other expenses in order to feed themselves. Education, for example, is commonly cut. While initial school enrollment in Togo is high, a large portion of students drop out soon after because their parents cannot afford the necessary fees and supplies.
  9. Malnutrition also affects children’s safety, as many families turn to child labor as a way to help earn extra money. Around 30 percent of children in Togo work. While the country has taken steps to eliminate forced child labor, voluntary work still has negative effects as it inhibits children’s ability to receive education and increases their risk of exposure to disease.

While poverty and hunger rates in Togo are still high, an increase in aid and promising new programs provide hope that hunger in Togo will soon be reduced.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr

Togo is a largely underrepresented country when it comes to global poverty awareness. Up until about 500 years ago, nothing about the area was known. Togo is an African country sandwiched between Benin and Ghana on the Gulf of Guinea. It is characterized by palm-lined beaches, hilltop villages and phosphate production. Although Togo is one of the world’s top five producers of phosphates, an otherwise prosperous resource used in fertilizers, its inhabitants remain poor and almost entirely dependent on humanitarian foreign aid. Thus, the rates of poverty in Togo are very high.

Nearly 81.2 percent of Togo’s rural population lives under the global poverty line. This makes Togo one of the world’s poorest countries. Child welfare is a huge issue, as 49.5 percent of those impoverished are under 18 years of age. One out of every eight Togolese children will not live to see their fifth birthday. Many face disease, as well as violence and exploitation at the hands of corrupt labor forces and human trafficking. Although the Togolese put a lot of value into education, most children are unable to continue schooling, as their parents cannot afford it.

For years, Togo has been the target of criticism for its human rights policies and poor governance. Developmental aid for Togo was halted in 1992 due to poor governance and human rights issues. In the past, it has gained notoriety as a transit spot for ivory taken from poached elephants and rhinos. For many, this criminal behavior is an act of desperation, as poverty in Togo is so high that many see no other alternative.

However, work is being done. In 2015, Togo began making strides towards eliminating the worst forms of child labor. The Togolese government adopted a new penal code that would implement harsher penalties for human traffickers and other forms of child abuse. The National Committee for the Reception and Social Reinsertion of Trafficked Children also endorsed a new Protective Policy Document on Child Domestic Work which would launch movements to help vulnerable children access education.

As Togo relies heavily on NGOs and international organizations, it is also important that foreign governments help these children by supporting laws such as the Education for All Act.  Acts like this one would help to ensure that children similar to those in Togo receive a better education and opportunities.

Kayla Provencher

Photo: Flickr

free trade productsAlaffia is committed to empowering communities in Togo, West Africa through the marketing of its fair trade products. The company was founded by Olowo-n’djo Tchala who grew up in Togo and came to the U.S. after meeting a Peace Corp volunteer.

Alaffia’s Empowerment Projects are funded through the marketing of its fair trade products. The company believes that African products should be available at a fair price and contribute to a sustainable future.

Their Empowerment Projects include “several Education-Based Projects, Maternal Health, FGM [female genital mutilation] Eradication, Eyeglasses and Reforestation. All of Alaffia’s projects empower Togolese communities to provide their skills and knowledge to the rest of the world and rise out of poverty.”

Education Projects

Proceeds are dedicated to projects which help get children to school and keep them there. So far, Alaffia has constructed 10 schools, helped 23,700 children get school supplies and built 1,855 benches for children to sit on at school. One of the most important projects the company participates in is supplying children with bicycles to ride to school.

To date, Alaffia has provided 7,100 bikes for children to attend school. According to the company’s website, “95 percent of Bicycles For Education recipients graduate secondary school.”

Maternal Health and FGM Eradication

Alaffia helps protect mothers and babies by funding prenatal care and clinics. The funds raised from sales of products goes to help fund over 3,500 births to date. Profits are also used to build women’s clinics in Togo, which help to fight against Female Genital Mutilation.

Reforestation and Eyeglass Collection

The company has planted 53,125 trees and invests in alternative fuels. The Alaffia team also collects eyeglasses and has distributed 14,200 pairs to those in need.

Fair Trade

Alaffia defines fair trade as a “movement of individuals and organizations working to ensure producers in economically disadvantaged countries receive a greater percentage of the price paid by consumers.” To that end, the company pays 15-25 percent more than the fair price for the shea nuts that are used to make its products.

In addition, Alaffia employees make four times what most in the area do and get full benefits. Not surprisingly, the company’s production costs and overheads are higher than other shea manufacturers, but Tchala will not compromise.

Alaffia sells fair trade products certified through Fair for Life: Social & Fair Trade. The Fair for Life website states that the organization “offers operators of socially responsible projects a solution for brand neutral third party inspection and certification in initial production, manufacturing and trading.

It combines strict social and fair trade standards with adaptability to local conditions. The system is designed for both food and non-food commodities such as cosmetics, textiles or tourist services.

Rhonda Marrone

Photo: Flickr

A premium skin-care company called Alaffia empowers local people in Togo by handcrafting beauty products prepared from Certified Fair Trade shea butter. Better yet, all of the sales from Alaffia’s beauty products contribute to the livelihood of West African communities.

Alaffia offers creams, soaps, lotions and hair-care products made from the indigenous shea tree. Alaffia operates at a local level, employing women in need and enabling youth to stay in school to complete their educations.

This company is essential to West African women because they have difficulty obtaining employment since they are oftentimes not able to access education. Exclusion from the workforce leaves them vulnerable and often unable to support their families. Alaffia directly employs around 500 women in co-ops throughout Togo to cultivate shea by hand. These women are compensated with fair wages for their work and they bring unique knowledge and handcrafting skills to the job.

The company was founded by Togolese native Olowo-n’djo Tchala in 2004 after he realized the need to combat gender inequality and poverty. Alaffia was founded on Tchala’s belief that everyone deserves equality, empowerment and beauty.

Furthermore, Alaffia uses its profits to sponsor philanthropic projects in Togo. One such project is called “Bicycles for Education,” which provides disadvantaged students with bikes to get to and from school. So far, it has helped more than 6,300 students in Togo. Alaffia donates metal roofs, seats, and school supplies to rural schools through its “School Supplies and Repairs” project to create a functional learning environment for youth.

Alaffia has also provided over 3,200 pregnant women with pre- and post-natal care, and has funded the planting of 25,000 trees to combat climate change.

While philanthropy and environmental benefits certainly set Alaffia apart from other major beauty companies, Alaffia products are also made with unrefined ingredients and contain no synthetic fragrances or genetically modified organisms. They are vegan, gluten free and an ideal alternative line for those with sensitive skin.

These products help Africans profit from their natural resources and create sustainable goods that help our planet, empower local communities, and improve education for students.

Alaffia products can be purchased at natural and organic food stores such as Lassen’s and Whole Foods.

– Jenn Hartmann

Sources: Alaffia, Thurston Talk
Photo: Thurston Talk